Category: Futurecasting

Rio 2016 and beyond

Ahead of the Olympic torch handover to Brazil this Sunday, all eyes are on Rio in the run up to 2016.

Much of the Brazilians’ presence in London over the past few weeks has been an education exercise, to learn from our mistakes and ensure 2016 is a better experience than London, to procure sponsors and most importantly to use London’s model for generating revenue.

But Rio 2016 has an edge over London besides mere experience: investment impetus.  For the Brazilians, the Olympics are a sideshow.  Casa Brasil has opened in Somerset House to encourage investment in security, infrastructure and security in Brazil over the next four years.  Film Brazil, a project to encourage media interest in Brazil set up shop in Cannes this year to generate interest in the advertising sectors.

Pertinently from a media perspective, the four years until Rio is likely to yield technology which will revolutionise the way sponsors can speak to the enormous audience available to them, in a way only previously dreamed about in celluloid.

Rio 2016 planners are no doubt keeping a very close eye on the latest opportunities for Out Of Home.  Earlier this year, we reported on Plan UK’s  ‘Because I Am A Girl’ campaign where women would see a 40 second clip on digital billboards across London and men would simply see a message inviting them to visit a website.

Facial detection technology is making it possible for brands to make their sponsorship space which is shown to a mass, cosmopolitan audience into some of the most targeted campaigns ever created.  According to a piece on the Huffington Post this week, this technology could go even further – an algorithm is being developed to judge whether you look “happy, sad, sick, healthy, comfortable or nervous”.

For current sponsors, this is great news.  But for Brazil and the Olympic brand in general, the doors it opens for a whole new genre of sponsorship are myriad.  2016 will be the showcase for a new generation of sponsors who no longer need an association with sport to make their presence relevant.  The superbrand monopoly on Olympic sponsorship may soon be over – brands can split costs, team up and reap the rewards.  At its most basic level, Nivea for Men can appear to men, Clinique moisturiser to women: all on the same site.

This means that come Rio 2016, if technology continues to evolve as it has been, and Brazil’s commitment to innovation remains just as strong, we are in for a very different brand Olympics.  And all for the better, we say.


The Wednesday Wrap – Is it all over for the banner ad?

This week in a Wednesday Wrap online advertising special, Microsoft battles its recent aQuantive disaster, Richard Sharp at ValueClick Media ponders what consumers actually want from online ads and Yahoo and Facebook solve their differences to develop a digital media superplatform.

Is the online advertising bubble about to burst? Tell us what you think @ActiveIntlUK

Reuters sounds the death knell for a declining format

We’ll begin with a bleak look at online advertising from Reuters last week, describing Microsoft’s recent aQuantive loss as an indication of the declining profitability of banner ads.

Facebook advertising, it says, has contributed to the banner ad misery, increasing the inventory of ad space and diminishing its value by almost half since the first dot-com boom.

But it is user behaviour which is the main concern for the industry, as people train themselves to avoid banner ads altogether.

ValueClick Media points to consumer trust as the answer

A report from ValueClick Media appears to contradict Reuters’ claim, finding that 60 per cent of UK consumers understand the value exchange between online advertising and the content it pays for, agreeing that the majority of the internet would ‘disappear’ without it.

52 per cent are ‘happy’ to see online advertising because they accept it supports online services.  ValueClick believe that it is trust over privacy holding online ads back and aim to close the gulf through proper education.

Ad tolerance is one thing, ad engagement is quite another, and we’re left wondering if those 60 per cent “don’t mind” banner ads because they simply don’t notice them anymore.

Yahoo and Facebook carry on regardless

Amid all the gloom, Yahoo ploughs on, announcing a partnership with Facebook to create a synergised platform for media planners to place ads across both websites.

Could the integration of social with content media be the answer to online advertising’s woes, or are Facebook and Yahoo still just one step behind the industry?

The Wednesday Wrap – A Microsoft Special

Lately we’ve noticed a buzzword flying around the industry not heard so prevalently since early last decade.  Suddenly everybody cares about Microsoft again, and it’s not just to muse over what bugs have been fixed in the latest version of Windows, or to critique an ever-so-slightly more user-friendly version of Internet Explorer before everyone migrates back to Firefox.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen Microsoft as something that works, but never particularly entrepreneurial – it seems that’s all about to change.  Far from resting on its laurels, Microsoft has been working on a number of important initiatives which are not only set to help it reclaim its 90s crown as technology innovator but as leaders in building a new advertising model and a new proposition for brands where competitors Apple and Facebook are famously struggling.

Here’s what Microsoft is getting us excited about, tell us your thoughts @ActiveIntlUK


Yesterday’s launch of Surface is a game changer for the tablet world.  In a market dominated by Apple’s iPad (iPad2, New iPad etc), the standard is set high and competition is fierce.  But commentators have been underwhelmed by Apple’s standard of innovation of late, with Mashable lamenting the relatively stagnant iOS6, the tide may be turning.

For media planners though, Surface is a beautifully designed platform for the long awaited Windows 8, a veritable theme park for brands and advertisers.  This week at Cannes Lions, Microsoft Advertising announced it was working closely with agencies to develop in-app advertising across the operating system with a refocus on customer experience to tell brand stories.

Stephen Kim, general manager of global creative solutions advertising and online at Microsoft, said, “Our team is focusing on creative agency evangelism to develop compelling brand experiences that incorporate Microsoft Advertising’s portfolio.


The clue is in the name on this one; last year Microsoft announced a new ad format centring on user interaction – less push and pull, more tug-of-war.  NuAds allow consumers to respond to an ad by simply a voice or gesture command.

In doing this, Microsoft has created a new world of ads that people will want to get involved with simply because of the novel format.   Genius.

This year, the format is being rolled out across its Kinect console and the crude oil pool of data will begin to accumulate at warp speed.


The Ad Exchange

While Facebook is proudly announcing its latest ad exchange model: Facebook Exchange, Microsoft is totting up prestigious and influential partners for its own.  Microsoft may be only just becoming a truly consumer-facing brand, but it hasn’t lost its foothold in business and has astutely pledged to put a focus on keeping agencies, advertisers and brands involved and spending money.  Earlier this year, advertising giant WPP signed such a partnership, giving them access to all Microsoft tools and advertising offerings.


Despite futile attempts to drive the phrase ‘Bing it!’ into the global vernacular, Google should be keeping a close eye on Microsoft’s plans for the next generation of search.  Stefan Weitz, its senior director of search last week gave us a teaser in the evolution of search.  He references new interaction models already patented by Microsoft, such as voice command and gesture recognition.

As he says himself: “Search is changing dramatically. The web is becoming more social, and these social signals can do a better job of understanding who people are and deliver more relevant and more personal results that understand the context and intent of the query”.


The Wednesday Wrap – things we’ve seen… things we love

This week in the Wednesday Wrap, Social Media Today pay their respects to Pay-per-click, Citymaps replace street names with brand logos and the latest Fipp report finds innovation still bubbling in magazine publishing.  These are our favourite stories from last seven days, tell us yours @ActiveIntlUK

Street names lose out to logos

New York start-up, Citymaps this week unveiled their latest offering: New York, San Fran and Austin mapped by brand logos, rather than street names.

We’re awaiting the London version with baited breath, not least to see how they cope with Active’s neighbouring brand metropolises, Oxford Street and Covent Garden.

Cynics will say this is a cold-hearted representation of the 21st century tyranny of the brand, but we love it anyway.

Magazines innovate

With the ABC reports harvest little optimism, the Fipp report came to the rescue on Monday revealing magazine publishers’ unyielding innovation in the face of declining circulation figures.

From augmented reality via new technology such as Blippar, to good old scratch and sniff covers courtesy of Esquire, the run to the newsagents has never been more inspiring.  But it’s the ‘handbag mag’ from Hungarian Lack, which gets the vote amongst the ladies of the office.

The Death of PPC Advertising

Since its inception, pay-per-click advertising has effectively cemented itself as a stalwart of online marketing.  But research has revealed that just 18 per cent of SMEs using Google Adwords actually recoup their investment: could the PPC party be over?

Social Media Today certainly seem to think so, citing it as a short-term fix and brand-unaware.  What do you think?

4Seven: what we can expect

First there was the sort of TV that if you missed, you missed.  The sort that used to cause frantic traffic jams into the suburbs on Saturday evening and Friday night arguments over the remote.  Then there was time-shift-TV, a phenomenon which changed our relationship with the living room forever.  No longer must we scour the Radio Times for repeats on an otherwise unwatched satellite channel, but instead watch for free – at our leisure – the following day, or the next, or the next, and pause to have a tea break whenever we damn well wanted.

Media planners and creatives alike prepared for this behavioural change far in advance.  Suddenly the 30 second ad could be clicked on, and clicked on it was.  And every time it was clicked on, brands knew about it.  Perfect.

As important an innovation as time-shift-TV or ‘TV on Demand’ was, recent BARB data reveals that even at the close of 2011 – 5 years since Channel4 launched 4oD in 2006 – it accounts for just 9.4% of all TV viewing – hardly the TV revolution we were expecting.

The much anticipated YouView, scheduled for launch later this year has further fanned the flames of change.  This time, video on demand becomes video on social demand and runs with a field of possibilities including split-screen Twitterfall, click to recommend and on-platform buzz generation through connections with social networks.

TV has always been a social affair; the office Eurovision parties are testament to that.  Could we really be expected to huddle round a low res laptop screen to enjoy our favourite shows?

Late last week, David Abraham announced the launch of Channel4’s latest offering, 4Seven – a channel allowing viewers to recap on Channel4 shows that have caused the most online buzz over the past seven days.  Met with excited murmurs within the industry and po-faced indifference amongst viewers, 4Seven will be in our lives by the summer whether we like it or not and will serve as an interesting barometer of the success of social TV.

Over on 4oD, advertisers are able to buy a demographic as opposed to a genre and choose from a range of ad formats including ‘Ad Social’ which offers viewers the option to Check in with, Like, Recommend or Follow a brand on-platform.  If 4Seven takes off beyond just another catch-up service, it means that mainstream television advertising will be opened up to these possibilities; beyond broad regional targeting, segmentation and viewer personas – using data from not only television habits but also online behaviour: keywords, search targeting and social data.

4Seven is not innovative, nor is it especially new, but it is a huge step forward in turning the social TV ‘trend’ found only in industry magazines and blogs like our very own, into a real revolution of an ad format we have trusted and counted on for decades.  Exciting stuff.


To sponsor or not to sponsor?

By Dean Wilson

Image from Marketing Events Blog

Sponsorship is becoming increasingly sophisticated; a playground for innovation, creativity and integration. Better understanding and expertise has undoubtedly been a key factor in the ascent of sponsorship and there is widespread confidence that this will continue. However, if not handled professionally, it can be a quick and easy way for a brand to damage its reputation.

2012 is a “maxi-quadrennial” year (for those in the know) with events including the London Olympics, the European Football Championships, and the Queen’s Jubilee: all providing the perfect stage for exemplary employment (or a bit of overkill) of the medium.

A great example of getting sponsorship right is undoubtedly Red Bull; a brand who not only understands the rules of the game, but has built their brand through a commitment to sponsorship.  Red Bull’s clever strategy is to sponsor extreme sports that tie in with its brand values of re-vitalising body and mind, and increasing performance, concentration and energy levels. Red Bull sponsors X-Fighters, Air Race, Cliff Diving, Crashed Ice; all bringing to life the “Red Bull gives you wings” strategy and aiding annual global sales of over 3 billion cans.

It’s been proven that sponsorship can make brands famous. Chosen well, sponsorship helps big brands engage with audiences with more intimate conversations and enables small brands to cut through the clutter and punch above their weight. It can anchor a brand to a consumer with a vice-like grip.

For many brands there’s no question that sponsorship is set to be a very important medium – one that can drive mutually rewarding strategic partnerships. However, the channel needs to be refreshed and maybe even re-branded in order to prosper in today’s marketplace to attract more disciples who fully understand the ménage à trois between sponsor, property and customer.





The Wednesday Wrap – things we like. . . things we love

We’re half way to the weekend which means only one thing: the Wednesday Wrap is back to round up our favourite news and views.  This week, Facebook show their social conscience, More4 makes its iconic idents work as hard as possible and Lady Gaga gets the seal of approval from the ASA.  Enjoy! 

Facebook gives back

SMEs have long been thought the key to kick-start the economy, and yesterday Facebook announced its plan to give away £4.2million in free social advertising to small firms across Europe.

Get clued up, SMEs and use it wisely!

More 4 takes us on their rebrand journey

More4 are rebranding and 4Creative, the team behind the idents echo its ‘making and building’ focused programming by releasing a rather polished video showing the work as it happens.

Take heed: there’s more to an ad than just the ad.

The ‘lost decade’ of US tourism is over

As appetite for travelling to the US reaches recovery, a safe and simple approach to visas is required, according to the Wall Street Journal today.  Current delays cost billions in lost tourism and foreign investment.  Change is essential.  Sit up, Obama.

Time Out makes TV sociable

The dream marriage of digital and TV moves further toward reality with the news that Time Out is branching out with a TV guide powered by social media.  Links to Twitter trends, discussions about shows, recommendations and ‘favourites’ are set to turn just ‘good TV’ into an event. #LIKE!

Balls in, Gaga out

The ASA has stepped in to scold Universal Records  for their risqué  Steel Panther ‘BALLS OUT’ ad on the grounds that it is demeaning to women, despite pleas of irony.

Maybe they should take some tips from Lady Gaga.  Her ‘writhing on the floor displaying her cleavage, kissing the floor and “sensually” rubbing her stomach’ in the Universal TV ad sets the standard for acceptable, apparently.  In all the confusion, one thing’s for sure: the ASA may be the best PR tool brands could hope for.

How corporate trade can work for travel

By Kate Kinnish

In December, we found ourselves with a reason to celebrate (and it wasn’t just for the holidays). After examining our financials, we saw that 2010 showed us a 316 per cent increase in media billings from our clients in the UK travel sector – predominantly tour operators, hotel chains and airlines.

While we have a range of clients, this increase proved something we’ve been saying all along: As the economic uncertainty continues (with people not travelling abroad as often as they used to), travel brands will be looking look to maximise inventory such as rooms, seats and holiday packages in exchange for advertising opportunities and ways to win new customers.

A number of hotel groups work with us by exchanging their rooms at full market value in return for a credit, which they spend on their marketing campaigns to help promote their brands. We then sell the rooms to their customer base.

Using corporate trade enables those in the travel industry, or their media agencies (with whom we work with daily), to use their existing inventory to help fund anything from TV ad campaigns and digital activity, through to printing and corporate hospitality.

If you’re in the travel industry and are looking to save money on your media spend while shifting a bit of overstock, talk to us. Last year alone, our clients used over $136 million worth of inventory to help fund media purchases – an added value and cash savings in excess of $100 million.

Mobile gets a good reception

By Dean Wilson

Like the resolution of the Eurozone financial crisis, mobile advertising’s coming of age has had a series of false starts. However, Google’s recent purchase of AdMob and Motorola Mobility are signs of a market coming out of adolescence and into maturity. The single biggest reason for this tipping point is the rise of UK Smartphone penetration.

One of the most interesting and exciting areas for mobile in the media mix is m-commerce. This is both personal (as a stereotypical man I shop twice a year, under duress, so the ability to shop on my mobile is like Blackpool winning the FA cup – pretty much unbelievable) and professional (try getting me away from work emails on the phone). I think the opportunities for advertisers are incredible.

I am in good company: 24% of UK consumers are using their mobile browser while shopping for instant price comparisons and customer reviews. With a product sold via mobile every second, mobiles account for a fifth of all e-commerce traffic. By 2015 mobile spending will account for 9.5% of the total online ad market – a staggering 45% annual growth rate.

M-commerce has the ability to make the customer journey easier, the experience richer and generate sales. This is a strategy retail marketers across the board are adopting; 8% of Topshop and 10% of eBay’s purchases come from mobiles (globally eBay has seen 50 million downloads of its app!).

The consumer appetite is clearly there, which begs the question – why have 70% of companies still not yet launched a mobile site? Some retailers are off the starting blocks but there are not enough in the race.

It comes down to basics. Understanding of the platform is the key stumbling block according to a recent IAB survey. Once understood it takes time, effort and money to develop a user-friendly site for savvy consumers who have little tolerance for slow transactions.

The end of year report card for mobile would read like the early stages of the internet – A for effort and enthusiasm but still a little unpredictable and inconsistent.


Pressed but not Pushed – The Future of Print Media

By: Dean Wilson

There can’t be many media professionals out there who haven’t discussed the woes of the press, certainly with regard to advertising revenue and their ongoing commercial models.

With some notable exceptions, the truth remains that paid newspaper print circulations are in long-term decline and many general interest magazines are suffering the same fate.

Therefore we have to ask ourselves: can the existing business model of cover price and advertising revenue sustain the costs of gathering and producing quality content and distribution? And if the switch from print to digital saves on overheads and provides a highly sought-after and previously unattainable success measure through click-through rates, will print advertising be as valuable to brands?

I think there are many reasons for the publishing industry to remain positive. Print may be in decline, but brands are still important to people.

The press must adapt, but does not need to die. The Guardian for example is to move its print edition from competing in the 24 hour breaking-news arena to offering a read more appropriate for the half of their readers who don’t look at the paper until the evening. At the same time their online publishing will move in to the “digital first” space.

There also looks to be a positive shift towards a more profitable presence in the mobile space. The Financial Times, despite its recent foray into Android, has been using the latest internet language HTML5 since its relationship with Apple went sour earlier this year, proving you don’t have to be an application to deliver great digital content functionality. Perhaps the Apple walled-garden, taking a greedy slice of digital subs and sales, has reached a near peak, meaning that publishers are no longer backed into a corner.

Support for print in the media is encouraging: Richard Desmond categorically denied a sell-off of his UK print titles, Express, Star and OK! He backs this up with his £100m investment in a new print works in Luton, of all places.

Challenges for the press are many but I doubt whether there will be a day in my life when I won’t be able to get what I want to read on good old analogue processed tree.

Press doesn’t look like a dead parrot to me, even if a Norwegian Blue and the Daily Sport are pushing-up the daisies, and forecasts of the death of the patient are somewhat premature.

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